Dawn Wells, who played Mary Ann Summers on the campy, classic TV show “Gilligan’s Island,” has died from COVID-19, ABC News confirmed. She was 82.
Her representative noted in a statement that the actress, motivational speaker, and philanthropist “passed [Wednesday] morning peacefully, in no pain as a result of complications due to Covid.”
Wells was born to Joe Wesley and Evelyn Wells in Reno, Nevada, where she attended Reno High School. Her father owned a local Reno shipping company called “Wells Cargo” (not the trailer manufacturer). After high school graduation, Wells attended Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri, where she majored in chemistry. She transferred to the University of Washington in Seattle, where she graduated in 1960 with a degree in theater arts and design. She was a member of the Alpha Chi Omega sorority.
TV fans will remember Wells as the wholesome, “girl next door” castaway counterpart to Tina Louise’s Marilyn Monroe-clone movie star Ginger Grant on “Gilligan’s Island,” which ran for three seasons from 1964 to 1967 on CBS.
Louise is now the last surviving cast member from the beloved series. All the other stars — Bob Denver, Alan Hale Jr., Jim Backus, Natalie Schafer, Russell Johnson, and narrator Charles Maxwell — have previously died.
Wells, a former Miss Nevada, made many stages and screen appearances after her pageant days. Still, it was her stint on the famously popular sitcom — which saw seven castaways stranded on a deserted island after a three-hour boat tour gone awry — that cemented her pop culture status.
Wells’ rep noted in a statement, “Dawn’s gingham dress and famous belly button covering shorts worn on ‘Gilligan’s Island’ are currently on display in the lobby of The Hollywood Museum.”
Dawn Wells remained close with the character and its legacy. A constant at autograph signings at pop culture conventions, she published a self-help book in 2014 called “What Would Mary Ann Do? A Guide to Life.”
In it, she noted, “It’s not my ego talking, but Mary Ann wasn’t just a silly and sweet ingenue. She was bright, fair-minded, and reasonable. Sherwood Schwartz, the show’s producer, and creator was smart enough to put her in short shorts so you wouldn’t think of her as your bossy sister.”